CAMPAIGNERS who have spent 10 years fighting the Front Garden development say they have been vindicated after last week's flooding.

The Front Garden Action Group (Frag) started campaigning about the massive housing scheme at Wichelstowe in 1997, and 10 years on the flooding seen on Friday has proven their worst fears about the site. The building of the 4,500-home scheme has long raised eyebrows among members of Frag, and they have raised numerous concerns over the site, including its position on a flood plain.

Frag members, including chairman Terry King, visited parts of the Front Garden on Friday and Saturday to see for themselves the levels of flooding and the impact it could have on any housing in the area.

Mr King said: "My view of it is I told you so'. We have been fighting against the Front Garden since 1997 and 10 years on it's 2007 and we have this.

"From the start we were saying this is a bowl of ground, with three brooks, a river and an escarpment with various streams on it - so what do you expect? Now our forecast is coming true."

Mr King described the flooding at Wichelstowe as being "pretty extensive", with between 1ft and 1.5ft of water covering many areas where houses are set to be built and where roads into the site have already been created.

A flood catchment area to the north west of the site was effective up to a point, but Mr King said it was not enough.

"It certainly held water back but it wasn't big or deep enough, so even the present flood arrangements aren't enough. When you then add 4,500 houses it can only get worse," he said.

David Evans, project director for developers Taylor Wimpey, said: "Over the past few days we have had instances of the watercourses overtopping their banks and flooding into the Wichelstowe area. We have not identified any instance of this that is not consistent with our flood modelling.

"All residential development on Wichelstowe will be outside the predicted flood plain and will be built with ground floors at least 600mm above the predicted worst case flood level to give an added degree of certainty that it will not suffer in times of flood.

"Similarly all of the distributor roads serving the residential areas are designed to be above the flood level so that the communities are not cut off."

An Environment Agency spokesman said they were satisfied that the relevant steps have been taken with regard to flood defence.

  • SPANNING the area between Old Town and the M4, Wichelstowe will be made up of three neighbourhoods.

Up to 4,500 new homes, offices, three primary schools, shops and a country park will be built in East Wichel, Middle Wichel, and West Wichel. Around three quarters of the 764-acre site belongs to Swindon Council with the eastern quarter owned by Taylor Woodrow.

The name Wichelstowe is derived from the old English word for meeting place. Infrastructure works started in May 2006 and so far access roads and changes to the junction with Croft Road have been completed.

Planning brief

FEARS that building on the Front Garden flood-plain will lead to thousands of new homes flooding have been growing for seven years.

  • March 2000 - The Front Garden Action Group (Frag) warned that the site was a flood plain used for run-off from swollen waterways and the Environment Agency had predicted the site could be under water every 25 years.
  • October 2000 - The Environment Agency warned against building on flood plains and said if the development went ahead, alternative land would have to be provided to soak up water.
  • January 2001 - The Environment Agency conducted a study into the extent of the flooding.
  • November 2001 - Frag took the developers to the High Court, because the councils had gone against Government advice with plans to build. Frag lost and had to pay the council's £11,000 legal bill.
  • October 2002 - Developer Bryant Homes said after speaking to the Environment Agency they thought the risk of flooding was manageable.
  • January 2003 - Bryant Homes said new houses would not be at risk because they would be built on higher ground.
  • April 2004 - Swindon planners increased the number of homes to be built on the site from 3,800 to 4,500.
  • June 2004 - Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott rubber-stamped the council's decision for work to go ahead.
  • August 2005 - The Government's planning inspectorate finally gave the green light for work to start.
  • May 2006 - The first-sod was turned over on the 300 acre site and the name changed to Wichelstowe.